[Security in the Riviera Maya] American expat point of view

May 17, 2018
By TAO Mexico
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For many years now, Mexico has shown a consistent rise in the number of visitors it has had across its borders, firmly establishing itself among the most desirable countries to visit on the planet. In 2016, Mexico had 35 million visitors - making it the 8th most popular tourist destination in the world - with a 9% increase in the number of visitors they had in 2015. Here is my opinion about security in the Riviera Maya after 5 years living here.

Every year, more and more people are choosing to take their vacations in Mexico, however, despite the consistent uptrend in visitors, there still seems to be an underlying sense of fear about Mexico among some travelers, more accurately, about their security.

Some popular opinions could lead you to believe that Mexico is a dangerous and hostile place. In reality, our lives down here in the Riviera Maya are spent experiencing the natural energy of the jungle, tasting new foods and enjoying this pristine paradise.

Most people don’t really know what it is actually like to live down here. More specifically, they don’t realize how peaceful life in Mexico can be - especially here in Akumal and all along the Riviera Maya.

Anyone who comes here instantly realizes how safe this place is as soon as they step foot outside of their hotel. They realize their fears were pointless, unfounded, and they get straight into the good vibe and general happiness which is part of the Mexican Caribbean lifestyle. Yes, this is the fun and safe side of Mexico.

If you’re thinking of taking a trip or retiring to the Riviera Maya, this article should inform you with everything you need to know about safety and security here. Hopefully, we can relieve some of those fears, and you can spare yourself the anguish of worrying about a threat which is far removed from what life is actually like in Akumal and the Riviera Maya.

Is it Safe to Live in Mexico?

This is a question most commonly asked by US citizens, whose concerns are based on years of misunderstanding about the varied cultures and differing expansive regions occupied by their Spanish-speaking neighbors.

Taking a look at Crime Index statistics for 2017, Mexico and the United States have similar scores: the US at 48.76, and Mexico, slightly worse, at 50.32. To get some international perspective about what these numbers mean, peaceful Switzerland is at 22.45, happy Canada is at 39.25, and troubled Venezuela is at 85.28.

Most US citizens will be shocked to realize that the Crime Index for their country - when compared internationally - is not dissimilar to that of Mexico. Although yes, the United States does have one of the highest reported crime rates in the world, most fears about crime in Mexico are related to the idea of a threat from lawless narcos.

Gangsters & Stereotypes

A country can often get branded with a reputation on an international scale, something which they become synonymous with the whole world over. Mexico’s reputation for violence is linked to stories of drug trafficking and gang warfare. Even if this were the case, the is not something you are going to feel in this area, regardless of media portrayal.

As the Riviera Maya is the most welcoming and inviting places you are ever likely to visit. This is why we are home to a very large expat community.

Is the Riviera Maya Safe?

The three destinations which make up the vast majority of the 35 million tourists who came to Mexico in 2016 are the Riviera Maya, Baja California Sur (Los Cabos), and the Riviera Nayarit (Puerto Vallarta). An overwhelming majority of travelers had a trouble-free trip to Mexico because an overwhelming number of these visits are to these lovely locations.

Any statistical account for crime throughout the entirety of Mexico will not allow for the different cultures, regions, and ways of life across this vast country. The question of whether Mexico as a whole is safe is far too general to answer. It is like asking whether the US is a safe place to live without differentiating between, for example, downtown Detroit and Yellowstone National Park.

The Riviera Maya is a natural paradise; it’s a huge rural area where most people live peaceful, happy lives. Just the same as in the US and Canada, the countryside is much less affected by crime. The same rules apply here in Mexico: what goes on in the north has little to no bearing on the laid-back lifestyle of the Caribbean. There is peace in the Riviera Maya and throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. The indigenous Mayan people are generally humble, courteous, and hard working.

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Petty Crime & Common Sense

While the problems associated with the infamous drug cartels of Mexico are not as prominent on this side, it has to be said, there will always be crime. The types of illegal activities that go on here are mostly petty crimes by opportunist thieves. Common sense prevails here the same as it does back home - simply, don’t set yourself up to be the victim of a crime by doing something irresponsible. Cancun is a notorious party town, and things can certainly get wild, but that even feels like it is far removed from the peace we have further down the coast of the Riviera Maya. Here in Akumal, we don’t really worry about things like street crime too much. This is a small, quiet place where people are friendly and honest. It isn’t the type of densely populated tourist area which attracts street criminals.

Is it Safe to Drive in the Riviera Maya?

Another rumor which persists about Mexico is the fear of highwaymen who operate on the long deserted roads and take advantage of people out in the wilderness. Again, even if this stereotype were true, this is not something that should concern you on the highways and roads of the Riviera Maya. It isn’t even commonly heard of throughout the entire Yucatan Peninsula. Highway 307 - which runs down the coast all the way from Cancun to the border of Belize - is super safe for regular, everyday use. It’s pretty much a one-road drive all the way from Cancun airport down to Akumal, which takes just over an hour. The road is pretty good and is easy to cruise down. There are a few police checkpoints along the way. If you get pulled over it will only be to check your documents, however, most will just wave you through as you slow down.

Akumal - Security & Harmony

The Riviera Maya is one of the many jewels of Mexico, and Akumal in particular is one of the most harmonious and friendly places along the coast. Anyone who is worried about violence and security will realize their fears were totally unjustified as soon as they stroll through the streets of Akumal and step foot on the beach. The town has a low-population density whose residents enjoy a day-to-day lifestyle centered around beautiful Akumal Beach. You can walk the streets of the town - day or night - with no realistic fear of being the victim of crime beyond what you should normally be alert to. The local Mexicans generally live a simple life at a slow pace, with a culture which focuses on family, food, and drink. Most of our neighbors around Akumal - locals and expats - are relaxed and friendly people who, like us, are living a quiet life among nature. In fact, the worst criminal you’re likely to find here in Akumal is a boat-tailed grackle - a local type of bird which is known for its nimble persistence at trying to steal people's chips.

Ultra-Secure TAO Community

The TAO Community is located within the five-star, master-planned neighborhood of Bahia Principe Akumal. TAO offers its 350 residences the ultimate feeling of security whether they are at home here in Mexico or away traveling around the world. At TAO, you’re always safe in the knowledge that your home will never be tampered with. Both TAO and Bahia Principe Akumal have manned security gates, with guests having to pass across two 24-hour security posts to gain entrance to your neighborhood. This creates a sense of ultra-security around TAO, which translates into a calm, caring community of people who you know would never have any ill intentions towards you. Homeowners in TAO live in an expansive, open green space with miles of walking trails which stretch and weave around the third largest golf course in the Riviera Maya. Residents and guests can comfortably stroll the spacious grounds of TAO and Bahia Principe Akumal, and access the TAO wellness center, pools, beach club, and other facilities without ever feeling threatened by security fears.

Investors - Is Mexico’s Economy Safe?

Mexico has a welcoming attitude to foreign investors, making it attractive for those from other countries to do business and capitalize on a strong and ever-maturing economy. Low public and private debt coupled with a solid backbone in oil and gas give investors a lot of confidence in the stability of the Mexican economy. Tariff-free trade agreements with 46 countries and a can-do attitude towards investment have meant that foreign money has established itself as one of the main drivers of economic activity in Mexico’s emerging tourist areas. If you’re interested in capitalizing on the growing tourism market in Mexico, a broader perspective can be gained by downloading our free guide on “How to buy a property in the Riviera Maya being a foreigner”.